Many colleagues and professionals often wonder how effective or even necessary a digital identity is to their careers. The main drivers are due to what appears as an overwhelming number of options being available: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, Vimeo, Disqus, Reddit, Tumblr, etc. Since there is such a long list, the amount of effort to create, manage and maintain all of them seems very high. Is it worth it?
The answer is "Yes it is worth it." In the digital arena, taking possession and managing your digital identity is tremendously important. Anyone can find an initial impression of you by doing a simple internet search through Bing or Google. There are generally three scenarios that happen when someone searches about you on the internet:
- They find wildly conflicting and inaccurate information. This can lead to a lot of misunderstandings, embarrassing situations, and confusion among many things. While it is true that not all companies use the Internet in doing research about professionals, a surprising number of them do and not having a clear picture can often times lead to certain misunderstandings that have to be cleared up that can take away time from actual meaningful conversation.
- There is nothing about you. Absolutely nothing. While this may in fact be your intent, this absence of any meaningful information means essentially as a professional you demonstrate an unwillingness to work with modern principles and practices, and also exposes a huge risk in terms of judgement when it comes to understanding the current marketplace and business. All things being equal, a competitive advantage such as understanding and applying technology can be critical.
- The information that is available is exactly what you planned for and demonstrates your capabilities accurately. This last group is a rarity among professionals, even among some of the best prepared.
Most professionals tend to use the "tried and true" methods of asking fellows in their professional networks for opportunities, using the same networks for insights and critical communications, and a warm handshake, friendly smile and rich conversation to make and seal deals.
This process is still the same in the digital world. Yet an effective digital identity can create new connections, open doors to new career opportunities, create better branding positions for existing capabilities, and demonstrate value to audiences to name a few.
An effective digital identity is not something haphazardly put together but one that is reasonably thought out. It does not have to be a full-on marketing campaign but it should be thoughtful enough to create a complete story. For example:
- LinkedIn can be used to establish your proper professional core identity. Other than basic professional capabilities, LinkedIn can showcase your accomplishments, professional projects, skills, and contacts.
- Facebook can also be used to show how you can connect on a more intimate level. While you might now want to add professional contacts as personal contacts, you can create a Facebook page that represents a more personable side of your professional nature. A Facebook page can be used to represent your brand and help create a connection with your intended audience.
- Google+ is another great way to demonstrate your capabilities by broadcasting real-time updates on various topics that are of interest to you. Try hosting a Hangout with some like minded professionals to discuss certain topics or just chat.
- Twitter is still one of the best means of creating real-time conversations. Pick some topics and thoughts and broadcast them. Twitter is different than many other social media in that it is focused on a real-time conversation. So the key here is to be as consistent as possible. Creating engaging conversations on topics that interest you and display your professional interests can be very beneficial.
There are a number of services that I have not covered but all can be very rewarding and beneficial to your digital identity. Yet you have to be disciplined enough to start with a core and expand as necessary to a embrace a number of services that you can actually handle on your own. This will allow you to get comfortable using services on a regular basis and understand their impact to your professional brand over time.
Being a successful professional in today's market means being able to make your brand stand out. An effective digital identity can be a powerful tool in exposing your brand to audiences that may not have been available before and creating new opportunities.